(Oct. 29) WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Dole Fresh Fruit Co. is betting bananas, so to speak, that children will warm to the company’s latest promotion that ties the fruit with a slice of ice in the form of a major children’s animated movie.

“Ice Age,” one of the year’s most popular animated films, will be released on DVD and video Nov. 26 by 20th Century Fox.

It’s a promotion Dole says it hopes will send chills through the produce industry and help develop healthful eating habits in children.

“We’re trying to create as much fun as we can for the retailer and the shopper,” said Marta Maitles, Dole’s communications director. “The movie promotions tend to draw more attention to children shopping with their parents and tie right in with the whole 5 a Day nutrition program.”

Marketers can only hope for limited changes to adults’ eating habits while children remain fertile territory.

“This could help make for lifetime eating habits,” Maitles said. “They may not be the ones with the wallets now, but, as they grow up, the promotions will have captured their attention and hopefully make them committed consumers of produce.”

The promotion, which runs Nov. 1 to Dec. 31, ties bananas to a prize giveaway. Stickers featuring pictures of the movie’s characters will appear on Dole bananas. Point-of-sale materials featured in the nationwide promotion will direct people to a Web site to enter a contest and to the store’s video departments.

“They’re (the retailers) really pushing this themselves, and we’re able to benefit from their ability to promote the DVD and video release,” said Maitles, who added that Dole will benefit from partnering with a leading entertainment company that has a larger promotion budget than most produce companies.

Dole will award a 43-inch high definition flat screen television and home theater system with a DVD player to the grand prize winner. “Ice Age” DVDs will be presented to 100 first-place winners, while 200 second-place winners will receive a Game Boy “Ice Age” game. “Ice Age” books will be presented to 500 third-place winners.

The Dole fruit division’s other movie tie-ins were the “Muppets Treasure Island” in 1996 and “Mighty Joe Young” in 1998. In 1997, another division of Dole partnered with the makers of “Anastasia” to promote Dole’s iceberg salads.

“It’s always great to have a cross-promotions partner that can reach out even further than we can normally reach and draw people into the promotion,” Maitles said.

Dole hasn’t conducted studies showing how such promotions affect sales, she said.

“Ice Age” features the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo and Denis Leary. Dole will place a link to the contest and movie from its Web site, www.dole.com. More information can be found at the movie’s site, www.iceagedvd.com/dole.

Maitles said Dole received a good response from children who collected movie character stickers from the Muppets film.

“People were calling our consumer center asking when the next character would come out on the stickers that had become collectible,” she said.